Charles Goddard.

The Perils of Pauline online

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Pauline turned back to the pages of the Cosmopolitan. A picture in an
article on the motor races caught her eye and held it for some reason
that she did not at first understand. It was a picture of a man in
auto-racer's costume, with a helmet tight upon his head and the keen
features and daring eyes peculiar to those who live by peril. She had
started to read the caption when she was interrupted by Bemis bringing
her letters. With a little flutter of pleasure, womanlike, she began
to read the letters from their postmarks before opening them. She hit
upon one that brought a little peal of laughter from her, and she
opened it eagerly and read:

"Walter and I want you and Harry to be with us at the wedding. Don't
faint. We decided only yesterday, and it's going to be very quiet,
with just the few people whom we can reach with informal notes like
this. You can motor over in an hour. Tell Harry our lions arrived
last Thursday from Germany, and after the wedding the keeper will
exhibit them. If Harry won't come to see me married, he'll come to see
the lions.

"Yours in a flurry, Sophie McAllan."

Pauline laughed again. It was like her unconventional chum, Sophie, to
arrange her wedding with the same startling haste that had marked all
the breathless events of her life. The lions she mentioned were
typical of her original ideas. She had suddenly announced to her
parents one day that she was tired of domestic animals and was going to
keep lions instead. And her amused and amazed father had not only been
forced to yield, but to keep his eye out all over Europe, Asia and
Africa for new bargains in well bred lions ever since.

It was also typical of Sophie that she had selected from among all the
dashing wooers; at her heels, Walter Trumwell, simple and sedate, who
was horrified by her pranks and shocked by her use of slang, but who
adored her with the devotion of a frightened puppy. Their engagement
had been long announced. It was only in its high-handed abruptness
that the wedding was a surprise.

Pauline dropped the letter on the table and hurried from the room to
look for Harry.

He had head her first call and was coming in from the garage. Pausing
at the door of the library, where he had last seen her, he narrowly
avoided a collision with Owen, who was hurrying out. The look of
covert guilt on the secretary's face aroused his latent suspicion. But
Owen, quickly recovering himself, bowed, apologized and passed on.

Harry stepped into the library. He saw the open letter on the table,
looked at the envelope and saw that, he was included in the address.
He read the letter, and the old look of trouble came into his eyes as
he turned to see if Owen were watching.

As he stepped into the hall he saw the secretary leaving the house. He
stood in the doorway and watched Owen depart in his own machine, driven
by his own chauffeur, a sullen young fellow whom the other employees
held in aversion.

"He's up to something. I wonder what harm he could do at the McCallan
wedding," muttered Harry, as he moved down the steps and out to where
the new gardener was working. The man had been greatly improved as to
cleanliness and clothes, but there was still the strange distant look
in his eyes as he got up from a flower bed to speak to Harry.

Pauline, after circling the house in vain search of her brother, had
returned to her unread letters and her magazine.

As she lifted the latter from the table, the picture of the man in
racing costume again struck her eye, and this time she read the
caption:

"Ralph Palmer, whose skull was fractured in the Vanderbilt Cup Race and
who disappeared from a hospital six weeks ago."

She studied the face again. It seemed the living likeness of one whom
she had seen dead. Suddenly her thoughts crystallized and she sprang
up. She rushed again to the front door, carrying the magazine open and
saw Harry and the gardener talking on the path. She ran down to them.

The gardener took off his hat, but Pauline looked at him with such
piercing scrutiny that he hurried to resume his work. Harry, after a
brief affectionate greeting, turned to give some last instructions,
and, behind his back, Pauline stole another look at the magazine.

"It is; I am sure it is," she said half aloud.

Harry turned quickly. "What is, dear goddess of the garden?" he asked
cheerily.

Pauline closed the magazine abruptly.

"Oh! I - I was dreaming," she answered, with a little nervous laugh.

"You can't have a dream when you are one," he said, putting his arm
about her waist as they moved back towards the house.

"I have news," she exclaimed, remembering the wedding invitation.
"Sophie McCallan is to be married tonight - just like that - without
telling till the last minute."

"I read the letter in the library."

"Did you tell Farrell to have the car ready?"

"I will, dearest. But I am not sure that I can go."

"But you must go."

"I got a telegram this morning, and I must go into town."

"To New York! Oh, Hairy, I simply hate your old business. Haven't we
got enough money without trying to make all there is in the world?
Aren't we..."

"No, not to New York - just into Westbury, Miss Firebrand. I must use
the wire direct to the office."

"Absurd. Why don't you telephone your message?"

"Code messages, dear. They can't be talked."

"But you'll be back in time to go with me?"

"I'll do my best. I'm starting directly. There's Farrell with the
machine now."

"But Farrell must get my car ready."

"He will. Farrell isn't going with me."

Her threats and pretty pleadings followed him as he drove away. But
Harry did not drive towards Westbury farther than the first
crossroads. Instead, he swerved out across country towards Windywild,
the great McCallan estate. Only a vague purpose moved him. His
suspicions were groping. But he was forming dimly in his mind a plan
to keep Pauline away from the McCallan wedding. Premonition whispered
that even among the nuptial gayeties there might be danger.

On the crest of Winton's Hill, from which the road slopes down to
beautiful Windywild through parked forests, but from which the rambling
white villa, with its barns and garage can be seen in striking
bird's-eye view, Harry stopped his machine.

To his far vision there was no unusual stir about the McCallan house,
in spite of the wedding day. Owen's car was not at the gate nor in the
yard, and he certainly would not have sent it to the garage if he were
making a business visit to the manager of the estate.

With a hateful sense of spying on the innocent and the sincere dread of
being met there by anyone - even by Owen - he was about to turn
around, go back and agree to take Pauline to the wedding, when the
movement of a figure through the distant garage yard made him stiffen
to attention and strain his gaze.

In an instant he had whipped his binoculars from under the seat of the
runabout and was staring through them at the establishment below. A
few moments afterwards he carefully replaced the glasses, and drove
away.

Owen had left the Marvin place in haste, seemingly intent upon a direct
and important errand, but if any one had seen where the car stopped an
hour later, both the haste and the errand would still have been
unexplained.

They were in the loneliest stretch of woods a half mile beyond the
McCallan house when Owen leaned forward and said to his driver: "You
may stop here."

"Yes, sir," answered the young man with a respect that he showed to no
one else. He drew the machine to the roadside and then asked: "Am I to
go with you or stay here?"

"Stay here," answered Owen. "But don't sit there lolling in the seat.
We have broken down - you understand - and you will keep us broken
down and keep on mending the machine until I return."

Owen, who was not averse to physical effort when his dearest object was
at stake, walked the half mile to Windywild rapidly. Unlike Harry's,
Owen's plans were definite and fixed.

He strode through the front gate but took his way immediately to the
stable in front of which two grooms were currying a restless horse.

"Hello, Simon," said Owen. "My car has broken down up the road here. I
wonder if you can help me out."

"I guess so," said the groom, not very cheerfully.

"We got plenty to do today as it is, Mr. Owen, with the weddin' party
on an' them gol blamed lions to look after."

"Who talka da lions?" cried a grim voice, and, turning, Owen pretended
to see for the first time a short, heavy set man of the gypsy type,
seated on a box at the stable door smoking a cigarette and evidently
regarding all the world as the object of his personal hate.

"Why, who is that man?" asked Owen of the groom in a tone of
condescending interest. "Where have I seen him before?"

"If ye ever saw him before, ye wouldn't want to see him again,"
declared the groom. "He's Garcia, Miss Sophie's new lion tamer, but we
ain't had time to tame him yet. He's wild."

The answer to this taunt was a rush from Garcia, who, uttering an
unintelligible roar that might have done credit to one of his lions,
sprang towards the groom. The latter took quick refuge behind the
horse.

The man's fury made Owen step aside, too, but he looked on with an
appreciative smile. As Garcia came back, growling, to his seat on the
box, the secretary stepped up to him and held out his hand.

"Is it really you?" he said, the patronage in his voice offsetting the
familiarity of his manner.

"If it looks like me, it is me," snarled the Gypsy. "Him - over
there," he cried, pointing to the groom, "he donta looka like his own
face if I get him."

"Come, old friend," said Owen in a low voice. "Don't you remember me?
Don't you remember the Zoological Garden in Brussels and the lion that
bent a cage so easily one day that it killed Herr Bruner, of Berlin."

The last words spoken almost in a whisper, had an electrical effect
upon the lion tamer. He fairly writhed in his seat and cowered away
from Owen as from one who held a knife over his head.

It was at this moment that Harry, looking from the hill, put away his
binoculars and turned his car around.

"Come, let's see the lions, may I?" asked Owen, cheerily ignoring the
man's terror, secretly enjoying it.

Without a word Garcia led the way into the stables.

The lions, six in number, were quartered in box stalls rebuilt with
heavy steel bars. They had been quiet, but the sight of a stranger set
them wild and their roaring thundered through the building.

Garcia led Owen to farthest cage and stopped abruptly.

"You after me?" he inquired, his nerve partially recovered.

"Yes, but to help you, not to harm you, old friend."

"You lie, I theenk. You tella the police of the leetle accident in
Bresseli - no?"

"No, indeed; you are too useful a man to lose, Garcia. Besides, I need
you again."

The gypsy held up his hands in refusal. "No," he whispered. "I hava
one dead man's face here always." He pointed to his eyes. "I cry it
away; I go all over da world. I not forget. He not forget. He folla
me."

Owen laughed. "Come, come," he said, "you are foolish. You had
nothing to do with that affair, except to loosen one little bar ever so
little. (Garcia groaned.) And it would be just as easy to leave say a
cage door open tonight while they're having the wedding."

"You mean - ?"

"I mean only a little joke. Nobody will be hurt, I feel sure. Of
course, if any one should be, you could not be blamed. Come, I want a
quick answer. If you won't do it, of course - you don't want anything
said about Brussels, do you, old friend?"

The man uttered another cry.

Owen drew money from his pocket. The man seized it greedily. If he
was to do the blackest of deeds, there was nothing in his conscience to
prevent him from profiting.

"Tonight - during the wedding, remember," said Owen. "I will give you
the signal. And, mind, you brute, if you don't do it, you know what
I'll do to you."

A few moments later he was out chatting cheerily with the grooms. "I'm
not going to ask you to help me with the car, Simon," he said. "You're
too crowded today, I see. I'll send Farrell up to the Hodgins House
and wait for him. Good-day."

He swung off down the road, greatly at peace with all the world. He
did not even rebuke his chauffeur when he caught him loafing on the
grass.

Harry and the household chauffeur, Farrell, were talking together
outside the garage and Harry was handing a $10 bill to Farrell, who
grinned broadly as he pocketed it. Owen saw nothing in this to cause
him apprehension. Harry was always generous with the employees. It
was well for Owen's plan that he should go to the wedding in so
pleasant a mood.

Pauline looked up from her book as Harry entered the library.

"I'm so happy," she cried. "You are a darling boy to come home so
soon."

He accepted her rewarding kiss gratefully.

"Yes, I think it's all right," he said, "though there are some serious
matters in hand at the office."

The butler appeared at the door. "Farrell asks if he may have a word
with you, Sir."

"Farrell? Why, yes; let him come here."

The chauffeur, cap in hand, stepped into the room.

"Guess I got to take the big car to New York, Sir. I haven't got the
parts to fix it, and I can't get them nowhere but in New York."

"Very well; that's all right, Farrell."

"But be back surely by four o'clock, Farrell," warned Pauline. "You
are the only driver I have."

"Oh, I'll get back all right, Miss."

But immediately after uttering these words in a tone of perfect
respect, Farrell committed an astonishing offense against the laws that
separate servitor and employer. He caught the shimmer of a wink upon
Harry's eye, and he had the audacity to return it.

Three minutes afterwards Farrell did a stranger thing. Going direct
from the house to the telephone in the garage, he took up the receiver
and called up the house. Owen, passing by, stopped spellbound, at the
door, to hear these mandatory words spoken by the chauffeur to Harry
Marvin, whose answering voice could actually be heard by Owen through
the open window of the library.

"Mr. Marvin, you are needed at your office. Come at once," phoned
Farrell.

He was grinning again as he came out of the garage, got into a machine
and drove away. Owen gazed after him with puzzled, lowering brows.





CHAPTER XVII

PALMER COMES BACK

Harry had just hung up the receiver of the telephone and had turned to
Pauline with feigned disappointment.

"My office is calling me," he said. "I'm needed there at once. I
shan't be able to go to the wedding."

The sight of the happiness fading from her flowerlike face filled him
with shame. It was the first time in his life that he had lied to her
and he was half sorry now that he had done so. But he must go through
with it now, and if there was apology in the kisses he pressed on her
reproachful eyes it was not confessed.

"I am going to the wedding just the same," declared Pauline.

"Of course, you are," he agreed heartily. "Farrell will be back with
the car by five o'clock."

"But who will chaperon me?" she objected, woman-like, to her own
decision. "It would look absurd to take Margaret, and Owen isn't
invited."

"You will not need a chaperon going over - provided Farrell gets
back," he said as he took his hat from the table.

"You mean you don't believe Farrell will get back!" she exclaimed.
"You are treating me like a child. You don't want me to go to the
wedding just because you can't go."

"Now, don't, don't," he pleaded, as she started to leave the room. "I
don't mean anything of the kind. I mean Farrell is the only man who
can drive the large car or the roadster safely. There is no reason in
the world why he shouldn't get back."

"And how am I to come home?" she demanded, turning again toward him.

"I will call for you in the runabout on my way from New York. Perhaps
even I shall be able to arrive in time to greet the happy pair," he
added cheerfully. "You'll make my excuses."

Owen, who was listening at the door, had just time, to glide away
before Harry hurried out.

The young master of the house had driven far toward the station before
the secretary returned to the library.

This time he entered and pretended to be hunting for a magazine.
Pauline's disconsolate face gave him the excuse he desired.

"Why, Miss Marvin, has anything happened?" he asked in a tone of
concern.

"Oh, everything has gone wrong," she cried, almost in tears.

"What do you mean?"

"Harry is called to the city just when we are invited to Sophie
McCallan's wedding, and Farrell has taken the limousine for some silly
repairs. They'll not get back; I know they'll not. They never do."

"But, Miss Marvin?"

"Oh, don't try to apologize for him. He cares more for his old
business than he does for me. He makes automobiles himself, and yet I
can't have enough for my own personal use. I'm sorry I forgave him,"
she flared.

"You are right, Miss Marvin; it is an outrage."

She looked at Owen in astonishment. It was the first time she had ever
heard him venture a critical word against Harry.

"I think it is your fault," she declared. "You are the one who should
see that I have cars and drivers - everything I want."

"But you know the machines have not come from the town house, Miss
Marvin. They will be here tomorrow."

"Well, Owen, it isn't for you to say that what my brother does is an
outrage. He does everything for the best."

"Miss Marvin, Harry is lying to you," he said quietly. "He and your
chauffeur have formed a plot against you. Your car will not be back
this afternoon at all."

She sprang to her feet, furious.

"Owen, be still! How do you dare to say such things?"

Raymond Owen had found his great moment, His enemy had set his own
trap and Owen would see that he should not escape easily. The
opportunity to break forever the bond of faith and affection between
Harry and Pauline had come. His voice rose as he poured out his
revelations and denunciations.

Pauline was leaving the room, when he thrust himself before her.

"You must hear me. I know what I say is true. It hurts me as deeply
as it will hurt you, but you must hear it. I believe I have discovered
- by the merest accident - the cause of all your perils. The plots
against you have been arranged at home."

"You are mad. I will not listen to you. Let me pass."

"Not until you have heard," he declared firmly.

"I was passing the door of the garage only a few moments ago," he went
on in a rapid whisper. "I saw Farrell at the telephone. He called the
private house number - the number of this phone on the table. You and
Mr. Marvin were sitting here. I was so surprised that I stopped and
listened to Farrell's words. I could see Mr. Marvin listening at the
phone here. Farrell said: 'Mr. Marvin, you are needed at your
office. Come at once.' Then he hung up the receiver and came out,
laughing. He got into the limousine and drove off towards the city.
If he could drive the limousine to the city, could he not drive it to
the McCallan's for you?"

Pauline put her hands to her ears with a protesting cry.

"It isn't true," she whispered. "It is only a scheme of Farrell's to
get an afternoon off."

"It is a scheme of Harry's to keep you from the wedding - for what
purpose only he knows. It is one of many schemes that have held your
life in constant peril. I saw their plan arranged. I saw your brother
hand money to Farrell at the door of the garage and they parted,
laughing."

Pauline's mind whirled. "I won't believe it! I can't; I can't!" she
cried. Doubt and fear and fury mingled in her breast. Weeping
tumultuously, she rushed past Owen and up to her own room.

Two hours later, the struggle over, she called Margaret, who bathed her
hot temples and dressed her for the wedding.

Harry Marvin, in town, tried his best to make good use of the time he
had stolen. But the thought of his well-meant chicanery was heavy on
his mind and it was not unmixed with apprehension. After all, Pauline
might find a way to go to the wedding. Might he not, instead of having
averted a danger, simply have absented himself from the scene of danger
when he was most needed? His nervousness increased. He found himself
incapable of work, and at three o'clock, to the surprise of his clerks,
who had thought his unexpected visit must mean an important conference
of directors, he called a taxicab and started for Westbury. But he had
no intention of going to Castle Marvin unless it was necessary. He
meant to telephone from Westbury and learn whether or not Pauline had
gone to the wedding. If she had not, he would remain away until late.

A few minutes before four o'clock, Farrell, with his pretty wife whom
he had called to share his plot and his holiday, drove up to a rural
telegraph office. They were both laughing as Farrell handed this
message to the operator:

Miss Pauline Marvin, Castle Marvin, Westbury. Blow-out. Can't get back
this evening. George Farre

"You - don't want to say what kind of a blow-out it is, do you?"
grinned the operator, glancing out of the window at the spic and span
machine.

"If you don't see everything you look at, you'll save your eyesight,"
replied Farrell cheerfully.

At the next town he telephoned to the Marvin office in New York. He
came out of the booth with a worried look.

"The boss has left in a taxi for home," he said. "Wonder what that
means. Guess we better sort of travel along towards Westbury. He
might need me."

They changed their course and had driven for some time at an easy rate
through the smiling country when the sound of a machine coming up
speedily behind caused Farrell to look around. The passenger in the
open cab waved his hand and Farrell, saluting, slowed down. The cars
stopped, side by side. Harry raised his hat to the young woman.

"You're not going home, are you, Farrell?" he said.

"I heard you'd left the office and I thought something might have
happened, and I'd be near enough so you could get me quick."

"Nothing has happened. I'll get along nicely with this cab. You'd
better keep a good distance and not come home until tomorrow morning."

"Very well, sir. That suits us fine." Farrell grinned.

The taxi started on and Farrell turned off at the next crossroad.

"He's a great boss, but a queer one," he said to his wife. "It's a
queer family all around. I wonder what's being cooked up now."

As the time of Farrell's expected return drew near Pauline's despair
and anger increased with every moment. When four o'clock struck she
arose and walked nervously out to the garage to ask if any word had
been received from Farrell. She found Owen there.

As she turned toward him, after her futile questioning, Pauline's grief
suddenly mounted to anger.

"It is after four, and Farrell has not returned," she exclaimed.

She had come out to the yard in the exquisite white gown that she was
to wear to the wedding, a flashing jewel at her white throat, her hair
done regally high. Now, in her anger, she was a picture of fury made
beautiful.

Her outburst was interrupted by a messenger boy with a telegram. She
opened the message with nervous fingers.

"Blow out. Can't get back this evening," she read.

She tore the message into pieces, dropped them and, stamped upon them
with her white slippers.

"It's true, it's true!" she cried, turning desperately to Owen.

"I am terribly, hopelessly sorry - but I knew that it was true," he
said solemnly.

At this moment along the drive came the new gardener wheeling a barrow
of fresh mold, his rake and hoe lying across it. "Palmer!" Pauline
cried.

The man let fall the barrow as if he had been cut with a whip lash. He
looked up and for an instant his dazed eyes seemed to brighten. Then
he picked up the barrow as if no one had spoken and went on.

Pauline followed him.

"Bring out the roadster," she called over her shoulder, and, as she
stopped beside the gardener. The garage men, bewildered, but used to
the kindly vagaries of their pretty employer, sent the machine down
driveway.

"Can you drive an automobile, Palmer?" asked Pauline.

This time the man's eyes did not brighten. He looked at her
respectfully, but dully. She drew him to the car and repeated the
question. He only grinned foolishly and kept on shaking his head.

"Wait," she said, and, running back to the house, reappeared directly
wearing her hat and flowing white wrap. "Come, Palmer, you must drive


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Online LibraryCharles GoddardThe Perils of Pauline → online text (page 13 of 18)